The uncanny resemblances between Putin's war of 2022-23 and the Kaiser's war of 1914-18 continue. After the failed invasion, the repulse at a major river, the counter-attack and the spring offensive, now comes a shell scandal.
After a failed attack in 1915, British officers complained of a shortage of high-explosive shells. The Times thundered: “ The want of an unlimited supply of high explosives was a fatal bar to our success", and blamed the government for the failure.
An Act of Parliament was passed to ensure a proper supply of shells but the row simmered and the next year, the Asquith government fell and Lloyd George took over. Today, facing a Russian offensive, the Ukrainian army is firing more shells than all the nations of Nato can replace. It's not quite a scandal. Not yet.
One image stays with me from the earthquake agony of Turkey and Syria. It was the sight of a street in which every tower block had collapsed but at one end, undamaged and still usable, was a single-story Portakabin-style building. Earthquakes do not kill people; buildings do. If you're rebuilding shattered cities in a known earthquake zone, why not insist every building is single-storey?
And to those who argue that low-rise construction is a waste of building land, what's more wasteful than burying 40,000 people?
Now, here's a curious thing – an election leaflet almost entirely avoiding politics drops on my doormat. It comes from three of our local candidates and tells us much about their experience, campaigning and, of course, their 100 per cent all-round commitment to the community. But not a word about their party. Until, that is, you get right to the bottom of the flyer where, in what I suspect is the tiniest typeface allowed by electoral law, is the word “Conservatives.”
This is what happens every few years when local councillors, usually red (or blue) in tooth and claw, suddenly get all sweet-reasonable and urge us to vote for the person, not the party. It's sound advice – especially when your party is 20 points behind in the polls.